’We went through something unique and scary together’: Leaving coronavirus quarantine

Canadian student and Wuhan evacuee Myriam Larouche reflects on her 14 days under quarantine at CFB Trenton
Myriam Larouche finally gets her Tim Hortons double double after leaving quarantine at CFB Trenton (Myriam Larouche)

On Feb. 20, I was smiling more than usual. It was the last time that my daily routine would be comprised of meals that arrive at my door, school work, news, movies, daily health checks, and basking in the outdoors in a parking lot. It’s Feb. 21, and I’m leaving quarantine.

For big trips, like when I first moved to Wuhan last September, I packed well in advance. Packing up my life here in Trenton didn’t require as much work, especially since I arrived with a small carry-on. But I received so many things while we were here, like a winter jacket, gloves and books. Fitting everything in my suitcase was particularly hard. 

Health officials informed us that we have two options for departure day: the first was to be picked up from the Trenton facility by friends or family; the second was to be driven on a complimentary bus to Toronto Pearson International airport. From there, we’d be on our own.

MORE: ‘I don’t want to stay another 10 days’: Life in Canada under coronavirus quarantine

The Yukon Lodge on CFB Trenton, where Myriam lived for 14 days under quarantine (Myriam Larouche)

Since my friends and family are in Quebec, I opted for the latter option. But the night before we left, I wasn’t sure whether I’d fly out to Montréal from Pearson or if it would be better to organize a rideshare on social media.

Honestly, it’s been hard to figure out the logistics of this last leg home. It feels like I’m trying to plan without all the information I would normally have. Yesterday afternoon, we were instructed to be ready to leave at 6:30 a.m. this morning; our bus left CFB Trenton at 7:30 a.m. Since it was unclear when we’d arrive at Pearson, anyone making flights plans booked in the evening, just to be safe. I planned on catching a rideshare through social media, but when I got to Pearson and checked Facebook, no one was driving to Montreal. I ended up taking public transit into downtown Toronto and catching a Megabus.  

Last-minute airline prices will likely be steep. I’ve heard this concern from other people in quarantine, particularly those who have families, or those who need to travel far distances (there are multiple people trying to get to Vancouver). Someone even left a Post-it note on one of the communal boards asking officials if they could stay in quarantine for a few more days so flights wouldn’t be as expensive. (I haven’t heard whether this was made possible.)

MORE: ‘My room is sanitized daily by people in hazmat suits’: Life in Canada under coronavirus quarantine

Myriam at Pearson airport after leaving coronavirus quarantine (Myriam Larouche)

Even though my travels won’t end when they drop us off at the airport, this feels like the end of a long journey. I have that distinct feeling that one gets at the end of a vacation—when you know something significant has ended. I saw and interacted with the Red Cross officials and other quarantine residents regularly, even though I only know what they look like in a mask. We all went through something unique and scary together, and I will miss them. Leaving also comes with the slight stress of going back to reality, which for me means working on my thesis research and not having the luxury of meals hand-delivered to my door.

At the moment, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to go back to Central China Normal University. It really depends on the COVID-19 virus and when it’s safe for me to return to Wuhan, China. In the meantime, my courses are now all available online so I’m still on track to graduate in July 2021, and I’m able to keep working from Canada for as long as needed.

Since I arrived in Trenton on Feb. 7, more Canadians, like the passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, have been evacuated and are headed into quarantine. My best advice for them is to be prepared for some highs and lows during their time in isolation. Trust the Red Cross and the health officials. They are there to help and keep everyone healthy. It can feel like a long process, but in the end, for me, it flew by.

Now that my quarantine is complete, I can’t wait to see my friends and celebrate being home. I’m excited to go to a shopping mall, not necessarily to buy anything, but just to walk into stores, browse and try on clothes—the kind of experience you can’t get online. More than anything, after weeks of having to keep a safe distance from everyone, I’m looking forward to hugging the people that I love. That’s when I’ll know this is really over.

Myriam would sincerely like to thank everyone who followed her journey through quarantine, especially those who reached out and supported her during her time in Trenton.

—As told to Ishani Nath